88.1 Miles (and 5 Stitches) – A Race Recap

26 Aug

Sometimes the races that you expect to be great, end up being great, but for entirely different reasons.

I have run dozens of half marathons. Not fast, not particularly well, but I’ve run them. I no longer (most of the time) doubt that I can reach the finish line.

So, when the phone call arrived the Wednesday before my latest half marathon, and I heard my friend asking me what I thought about biking from Providence post-race to Hyannis (75 miles) I was pretty excited.  Not only because I was bummed about not signing up for the Timberman Half Ironman on the same day but because this seemed like a good endurance test after my winter/spring of PT.

So I said yes.

I was a little nervous about the 75 miles biking.

That’s the irony.

THE STATE CAPITOL – START/FINISH LINE

OBLIGATORY PORTA-POTTY PHOTO

The race began too well.  Maybe that should have been a clue. I actually tapered rather than over trained. I took the Commuter Rail to Providence on Friday evening to get my race bib and the trip was short, uneventful, and I loved my walk around Providence. I slept decently the night before the race and was up and on the road at 4:30 AM. I ate a bagel, there was no traffic, I sang along to some great songs and I arrived at the race excited – to use the mall bathroom without standing in a long line, to have plenty of time for stretching, to run a race in 50’s and 60’s weather (it turned out humid later but the first few miles were delightful.)

Of 13 corrals, I had somehow been seeded in Corral 2.  Like, the corral behind the Elite people. The corral for the super fast but non-elite people. As in, the Corral I did not belong in. I moved to the back of Corral 3 where I joined the 1:45 pace group. And we were off.

The first 4.5 miles were great.  We ran a tad slow for our pace (8:50/avg miles) but that is because we were running uphill. Which would be followed by lots of downhill (love how that works!) and then a lot of mostly flat racing along the river.  I gathered all of this from the people in my corral as I felt no need to check out the elevation ahead of time. I play by the “Ignorance is Bliss” rule most of the time.

One of my biking friends cruised along nearby, warming up before we began the 75 bike ride.  And yes, that made me nervous. Let’s do the math: somewhat fit but slow female takes on a half marathon before biking 75 miles with uber fit male friends who are using the bike ride as a training ride for their upcoming Ironman, have 4% body fat, and will not be tiring themselves out on aforementioned half marathon.  The math was most definitely not in my favor. But whatever. I figured I would deal with that later.

And then, we crested the hill at Mile 4.5. Mumford & Sons playing in my ears. A breeze at my back. And *BAM* I was hit from behind by incoming enemy fire.  Actually, it was a male runner running downhill without brakes. When I hit the ground, I knew something was wrong.  Turns out, in a classic Liz-move, I managed to split my side open. Not open badly enough to warrant an ambulance but badly enough to warrant something more than a Band-Aid.

I made my way to the medical tent where I quickly learned my options were:

1. Accept a Band-Aid.
2. Accept lukewarm Gatorade.
3. Accept a “Do Not Pass Go” Chance card taking me straight to the local hospital.

And then, the knight on the shining Bianchi showed up and offered me Option #4.  At the time, I thought Option 4 was: “Get stitches. Get back in the race. Finish. Feel proud of yourself.”  It seemed like a no-brainer. Especially since I knew my 1:45 half marathon was not going to happen. And because I was standing there, tears streaming down my cheeks, unable to stop them. I am not exactly sure what percent of the tears were for knowing that I wouldn’t make my goal, that I was failing (a friend later wisely commented: “only you were thinking you were failing at that point”) and what percent represented actual pain.

So I ran/walked ahead to Mile 6 in my sports bra with a huge gauze pad on my side (real classy) while Knight (who I should mention is a 4th year Med Student and not just a random pro triathlete who carries a suture kit with him for kicks) went back to retrieve the suture kit and another t-shirt for me to wear.  What he did not retrieve was any sort of pain meds.  Or numbing action.

So I finished the 10K and hobbled to the sidelines where I was operated on in the open air on what is now affectionately referred to as “Sidewalk Surgery Sunday.” I kinda wanted my Mom. It hurt a lot. Although probably no one else knew just how much it hurt because whenever the pain got too intense, I laughed. And then I got up, took a swig of lukewarm Gatorade, and continued on my way.

And the race was amazing!
I pulled myself together and not only beat my 1:45 goal but I won the race!

Just kidding.

I finished in 2:06:34. 6 minutes faster than my last half marathon in June despite the Sidewalk Surgery. So it was still a good run.  Well, it was a hard run. I don’t remember anything of miles 6-13.1 except that there were a lot of tears in my eyes and it was hard to see, my friend sent the following text that made me laugh “You can still finish! Blood doesn’t stop you! You’ve been kicked in the face and had scars that even Papelbon thought were badass. But seriously, I hope you are ok” and at mile 11ish, I took this picture:

Sometimes the races that you expect to be great, are great, but for entirely different reasons. City skylines fill me with joy. So do bridges. So does finishing a race and triumphing over something (even something small like 5 stitches).

MY BADGES OF BRAVERY

And I biked the 75 miles.  It was not the 23-25 miles per hour that the guys wanted but they worked out a plan that helped them meet their training goals without forcing me to bike faster than I was comfortable with. (When riding a road bike, you spend much of your time in the dropped position which means your thigh is repeatedly hitting your side abs.  I was essentially lightly punching myself in the gut over and over and over on top of the stitches.  This is my excuse for why I stayed in the 22 mph range. And not at all because I just can’t bike faster.)

It was a gorgeous ride. I had lots of time alone with my thoughts to consider why I run and why I bike and when it is stupid to keep running and when it is stupid to give up. Those answers are different for different people and for different situations. In this case, I know that running was the right thing to do.

And…it has been over 2 years and over 18 months since we lost two of our friends. And every single race and gathering since then has been tainted by the fact that once we were 5 and now we are 3. It makes every gathering a little sad, a little awkward, a little hard. But for once, for a few moments, that was all forgotten.

At the med tent, I kept saying “I am fine, I am okay” and Knight was on the phone to RoadRunner saying “She’s fine, she is okay, find my suture kit!” and then I was laughing because it was all so horrible and hilarious (this was before the reality of Sidewalk Surgery happened).

And 1.5 miles later, as I focused on RoadRunner and made him promise to not let me look at the impending surgical site that Knight was prepping, I remembered a day that began at 4 am with an hour swim, then a 2 hour bike ride, then a long day at work and an evening run. It was towards the end of our training and we were all understandably a little drained and snippy.  4-7 AM and 6-8 PM are a lot of time to spend with the same 4 people. “I don’t really need you” I said to Jake as he took a turn running with me as the other three sprinted ahead.  I meant to say “You don’t need to wait for me. I am fine on my own.” That fiercely independent streak I am constantly battling…

“Everyone needs people. And one day, you’ll be glad that you allowed yourself to need” he said. “And I’ll enjoy every single second of you not being able to do it on your own.”

That day came.
And I hope he enjoyed it.

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